The Liberated Prisoner

The Liberated Prisoner  (1843) 
by Lydia Sigourney

Sigourney, Lydia Howard, Embury, Emma C., and Snowden, William W., eds. The Ladies' Companion, and Literary Expositor; a Monthly Magazine Embracing Every Department of Literature. New York: William W. Snowden, 1843. Page 314.

I took a poor fly from a vase of ink,
Upon my feathery quill-top, which I turn'd
For his relief,—as erst old Egypt's scribes
Revers'd their stylus, for the benefit
Of critical remark.—I thought at first,
The luckless wight was dead. But lo! an arm
Quivering, did stretch itself, as if in act
To implore my pity.
              So,—with gentle hand,
I laid him on a paper in the sun.
There to revivify. With sudden spasm,
Convulsion shook him sore,—and on his back
He lay discomforted. Close by his side,
I strew'd some sugar,—and upon his breast
Bestow'd a particle,—thinking, perchance,
The odor of his favorite aliment
Might stimulate his palate, and uncoil
His folded trunk.
              But, strait, a troop of friends
Gather'd around him; and I thought how sweet
Their sympathy must be, in the dark hour
Of adverse fortune. Yet, behold!—they came
To forage on his stores,—and with such zeal
Did help themselves,—that o'er his back they strod
And trod upon his toes, and rudely turn'd
And toss'd him o'er and o'er.
              Incens'd to mark
Their want of kindness, and of courtesy,—
I drove these venal people all away,—
And shut a wine-glass o'er him, to exclude
Their coarse intrusions.
              Forthwith, they return'd,—
And thro' his windows peer'd,—and round and round
Gadding,—admission sought,—but all in vain.
And then a mighty buzzing they set up,
As if in envious spite to see him there,
With such a pile of sugar at his lip,
And they, themselves shut out. But he, alas!
Like a sick king, in sumptuous palace inur'd,
Unable was, to taste the luxury,
For which they long'd and fretted. All at once,
His head he raised, and thrusting forth a paw,
Lean'd on a chrystal fragment of his hoard
Like fallen Marius, 'mid the broken fanes
Of ruin'd Carthage. Then, with slender voice,
Piping and weak, he seem'd to moralize
And warn the young fly-audience not to plunge
With rash ambition in some Stygian pool.
But ill at ease he was in hie discourse,
And little gesture us'd, and slight regard
Won from his bearers. Then, with pain he rose,
And dragg'd his palsied body slow along,—
Marking out sinuous lines, as on a map,
Of coast, creek, harbors, and promontory,—
All with as black a trail as poets say
The serpent left in Eden.
              The sad estate
Of my poor friend, attracted other guests
To his glass-palace,—while my daughter's glance
More quick than mine, detected eyes and wings
Blinded and pinioned by the glutinous dregs
Of the dire ink-flood. A nice bath she made
In a small, silver-spoon, and help'd him plunge,
And cleanse his prison'd pores.
              Thence, he came forth
Most marvellously chang'd,—stretching amain
All his six legs uncramp'd and flapping wide
His gauzy wings, appearing to approve
Her medication, and to add his mite
In heart-felt praise of water and the bath.
Then, quick, with light proboscis, he essayed
The sweet repast, that he had shunn'd before:—
While in this renovation of the life
Of the frail, helpless insect of a day,
I felt a pleasure that could ne'er have sprung
From taking it away.
              These mystic gifts
Of breath, and motion, and the beating heart,
Shall we not guard them for the humblest thing,
From reverence to the Power that bade it run
Its little race,—and love the fleeting life
That He bestow'd?

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.